By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - Militants of Nigeria’s Delta region on Monday said they would agree to dialogue with the government under certain conditions in order to end bombings of gas pipelines, including a commitment not to repair damaged infrastructures while talks are ongoing.
The spokesman of the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, Mudoch Agbinibo demanded in a statement that independent mediators be appointed.
“We believe that it is the only such environment that will engender genuine dialogue, that will be aimed at setting up a framework for achieving the short-, medium- and long-term demands of the Niger delta to de-escalate this conflict and bring about a lasting peace,” it added.
The group also threatened to sink vessels operated by the oil firms if they continued operations in the region.
“They should not undertake any repair of pipeline, oil and gas facilities that is damaged or attacked by our forces during this period of ‘Operation Red Economy’ until and/or after the dialogue,” according to the statement.
The group also threatened to review its earlier position not to shed blood while its operations last if the conditions are not met.
The Niger Delta Avengers have damaged critical oil infrastructure in the region between February and now, resulting in Nigeria’s oil production to drop to below 1 million barrels per day, down from the 2.2 million bpd projected in the 2016 budget.
The group had demanded total withdrawal of oil firms from the region as well as local ownership of the crude oil. Nigeria responded by deploying troops.
The government has now agreed to a dialogue with leaders and communities in the region - an offer initially rejected by the militants.